Six months ago, I was full of optimism. On the anniversary of the pandemic’s start in the US, we saw the number of infections plummeting. Vaccinations were rising. And most churches planned a return to normal. But with the recent spike in Covid infections and skyrocketing hospitalizations, many churches are facing heightened uncertainties for the future. And leaders are asking, “What’s next for the church?”
That question is especially important for the numerous churches whose struggle for survival has only intensified these past eighteen months. I am thinking about church plants who were just beginning to gain traction. But I’m also thinking about the established churches with declining membership and resources. The pandemic has shortened the life-span for many of of these churches. What is next for them?
The Dead-End Road
Sadly, many of these churches will continue as usual. They will do nothing to change their trajectory. Some have given up. Some are praying for a miracle. But many will continue as usual because they don’t know what else to do. They are stuck in a rapidly increasing death spiral. A life expectancy of 5 to 10 years pre-pandemic is now 1 to 3 years. Sometimes less! They are heading down a dead-end road.
I have written about this before. I do not believe it is normal for churches to die. Churches die because they do not follow Jesus’ plan for them. Whether by intent or default, churches die because they choose to die. They die because they are heading down the wrong road.
The Road to Church Revitalization
It’s not too late! I love the story of the church in rural Kansas that was down to a handful of members. Then Covid hit. Their membership fell to less than a handful. They were ready to close. They put their building on the real estate market. And that’s when God did what only God can do. You can listen to the story of Linwood Baptist Church here. Just don’t forget. God is in the business of bringing life from death! It’s never too late to change directions. To get on the road to church revitalization.
I am thankful for the work of men like Thom and Sam Rainer, Mark Clifton, Richard Blackaby and others for their pioneering work in church revitalization. They have not only brought awareness to the issues facing declining churches, they have also identified solutions and strategies. It has been my privilege to learn from each of them and to walk alongside churches in need of revitalization.
There is no single road to church revitalization. There are many pathways all leading to a single destination… healthy churches. My friend, Josh Cook is the church revitalization specialist for the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association. Josh has identified no less than eighteen different pathways for churches to follow based on available resources and the church’s ability to change. If you are in a stuck or struggling church… Even a church that is spiraling towards death… It’s not too late. There is a pathway for you. But the window of opportunity is closing. Reach out to someone for help before it’s too late.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.